Journal Article

Multiple Industrializations: Urban Manufacturing Development in the American Midwest, 1880–1925

PHILIP SCRANTON

in Journal of Design History

Published on behalf of Design History Society

Volume 12, issue 1, pages 45-63
Published in print January 1999 | ISSN: 0952-4649
Published online January 1999 | e-ISSN: 1741-7279 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jdh/12.1.45
Multiple Industrializations: Urban Manufacturing Development in the American Midwest, 1880–1925

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Recent research in historical and economic geography has documented an interactive agro-industrial dynamic in the American Midwest, which laid the basis for regional mass-production systems often characterized as Fordism. This study examines four Midwestern manufacturing cities during the ‘second industrial revolution’, reconstructing the pattern and trajectories of leading sectors in bulk, mixed and batch production formats, using detailed, disaggregated census data and other sources. Focusing on value added in manufacturing as a key indicator, the study suggests that Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Grand Rapids charted quite distinctive pathways to industrial advance and that the significance of non-Fordist, speciality manufacturing to their growth has been undervalued. The Midwestern cases are contrasted with that of Philadelphia, an eastern centre for batch industries, and the five cities' situations in 1900 are compared with their industrial positions in 1925. The findings indicate a greater diversity in urban industrial structures and histories than is usually appreciated, which limits the reach of both the agro-industrialization model (temporally) and of the Fordism concept more generally, yet opens new venues for research on regional industrialization and its structured variations.

Keywords: economics; furniture; industrial organization; regional diversity; United States-urbanism

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Subjects: History of Art ; Art Forms ; Industrial and Commercial Art ; Art Styles

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